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100 best films of the 21st century according to critics

  • 100 best films of the 21st century according to critics

    Though the Golden Age of Hollywood ended decades ago, the magic of Hollywood may be even more remarkable this century. Consider how technology enables filmmakers to include incredible CGI creations or to create thought-provoking documentaries filmed on smartphones. Hollywood has started opening its doors to allow women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and others to tell new, diverse stories that appeal to critics and audiences alike. What’s more, there are countless publications and online outlets to critique and discuss the latest films, highlighting smaller, more obscure movies that might have otherwise gone undiscovered.

    The rise of Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming platforms have similarly changed the game. While most of their innovations have been geared toward changing the TV landscape as we know it, they’re also producing original movies faster than the biggest studios and working with some of Hollywood’s best stars to do it. As their feature films and documentaries continue picking up awards and critical acclaim, in 20 years, a list like this might feature more Netflix and Amazon originals than big-budget blockbusters or indie flicks.

    So which movies do critics say have bested the rest? Stacker collected data on the top movies of all time on Metacritic (as of October 15, 2020) and ranked the top 100 from the 21st century according to Metascore, initial ties being broken by the number of critic reviews. Films with less than seven reviews were not considered.

    As many are forced to stay home, streaming services are an ideal way to watch many of the countless films made in the 21st century through stories that have transported viewers to far-flung worlds, taught lasting lessons about life, or inspired empathy. Read on to find out the 100 best films of this century according to critics.

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  • #100. Gosford Park (2001)

    - Director: Robert Altman
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 34
    - Runtime: 137 minutes

    2001’s “Gosford Park” is a British mystery film starring Maggie Smith, Ryan Phillippe, Michael Gambon, and Kristin Scott Thomas. The upstairs-downstairs drama with a large ensemble cast snagged an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

  • #96. Almost Famous (2000) (tie)

    - Director: Cameron Crowe
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 38
    - Runtime: 122 minutes

    “Almost Famous” is based on the true story of director Cameron Crowe’s experience working as a teenage writer for Rolling Stone. This coming-of-age film is set in the 1970s as a young journalist goes on tour with a famous rock band.

  • #96. Finding Nemo (2003) (tie)

    - Directors: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 38
    - Runtime: 100 minutes

    In “Finding Nemo,” a Pixar classic, a little clownfish gets separated from his father and has to traverse the wide ocean to find his way home. The movie features voice acting from Ellen Degeneres and Albert Brooks, among others.

  • #96. Winter's Bone (2010) (tie)

    - Director: Debra Granik
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 38
    - Runtime: 100 minutes

    “Winter’s Bone” rocketed actress Jennifer Lawrence into mega-stardom at age 19. The film follows a young woman living in a largely drug-addicted community in the Ozarks, set against a stark, wintery backdrop.

  • #96. Burning (2018) (tie)

    - Director: Lee Chang-dong
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 38
    - Runtime: 148 minutes

    Unfolding at a purposefully gradual pace, this South Korean mystery centers on an aspiring novelist named Lee Jong-su. When his young female friend goes missing, Jong-su begins to suspect foul play. Entangled in the subsequent investigation are themes of psychological torment and class divide.

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  • #94. Capturing the Friedmans (2003) (tie)

    - Director: Andrew Jarecki
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 39
    - Runtime: 107 minutes

    This HBO documentary follows the story of Arnold and Jesse Friedman, a father and son arrested for child molestation. The director was initially making a short film about children’s party entertainment. He filmed a clown named David Friedman, who happened to be Jesse’s brother, and was pulled into a new story.

  • #94. Before Sunset (2004) (tie)

    - Director: Richard Linklater
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 39
    - Runtime: 80 minutes

    “Before Sunset” is part of the “Before Trilogy,” which includes 1995’s “Before Sunrise” and 2013’s “Before Midnight.” All three films star Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. “Before Sunset” follows an afternoon spent by lovers reuniting nine years after their first meeting in Paris.

  • #93. United 93 (2006)

    - Director: Paul Greengrass
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 40
    - Runtime: 111 minutes

    September 11, 2001, was a day that changed lives around the world. “United 93” follows the real-time story of one of the hijacked planes that crashed in a field. Passengers worked together to foil a terrorist plot, sacrificing themselves in the process.

  • #91. The Incredibles (2004) (tie)

    - Director: Brad Bird
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 41
    - Runtime: 115 minutes

    In Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” a family of superheroes attempting to lead a normal life gets sucked into a top-secret assignment. It won Oscars for Best Animated Film and Best Sound Editing.

  • #91. Paterson (2016) (tie)

    - Director: Jim Jarmusch
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 41
    - Runtime: 118 minutes

    Indie auteur Jim Jarmusch brings his unique sensibilities to this understated drama, which follows a week in the life of New Jersey bus driver Paterson (Adam Driver). Paterson is tethered to a series of daily rituals, and he channels his mundane observations through poetry. While the movie failed to snag Palme d'Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, its canine actor Nellie did win a posthumous award for Palm Dog.

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